After Eugenie Bouchard took the tennis world by storm, the online world quickly followed with a plethora of articles that detailed both her tennis game and her striking good looks. I just read an article that condemned journalists for calling her Canada’s tennis sweetheart. While I agree that “sweetheart” is a misplaced adjective to describe someone who has shown NO mercy while competing and is therefore not a sweet thing, I see no reason why making mention of her good looks has caused such an uproar. There is nothing wrong with taking note of the fact that she has kick-ass tennis skills and is gorgeous.
I can already feel the feminist backlash yelling that she should be judged by her accomplishments, her competitiveness, and her dominance on the court and not for her looks. It’s patronizing and misogynistic. It demeans her ability because people are still talking about her looks. While I agree that she should be judged by her accomplishments, I don’t think that being pretty takes away from her being one of the best at what she does. There is no reason that Bouchard cannot be the top of her field and be beautiful.
Bouchard is a beautiful woman. We are living in a world where, rightly or wrongly, how you look matters. We are surrounded by images of sexy people selling everything from food to cars. Countless studies have proved that girls who are exposed to the American ideal (that being thin is the only way to be beautiful) have less self-confidence and a worse body image than before they were exposed to such ideas. We are constantly comparing ourselves to the most beautiful people, hoping that we can look just a bit more like them and feel a little bit better.
So why am I not outraged that the media is recognizing Bouchard’s looks? Because girls are getting to see that you don’t have to sacrifice everything you are and everything you love to be seen as beautiful. Girls all over the planet are getting a chance to see a woman who has dedicated her life to her game, like countless athletes before her, and who is gorgeous. Girls are getting a chance to see that being athletic and strong does not automatically make you butch, ugly, or huge. Bouchard is showing young girls that athletes can be both successful and beautiful.
I remember the first time I watched Serena Williams play and win on TV. As I watched her absolutely dominate, she threw her arms up in celebration and I remember thinking to myself, “Wow.” I was in awe of her strength and power. She is the example I wanted to follow. I wanted to be that strong and that graceful and that powerful. As it was with Williams, so it is now with Bouchard.
Having a role model such as Bouchard—who speaks well, is pretty, and is damn good at her sport—is life-changing. I’ve been lucky enough to know women like this, and they profoundly impacted my life. Role models like Bouchard are vital if we are going to show girls that success doesn’t mean you are ugly or undesirable. Role models like Bouchard give girls something to aspire to that isn’t just being beautiful.
By denying the fact that Bouchard is beautiful, we take away from who she is as a role model. Society teaches girls that they can either be pretty or athletic or smart. Society feels the need to put women in the binary of either successful OR pretty, but never both. Society feels the need to put women in the binary of either successful OR pretty, but never both. Women such as Serena and Eugenie help to break that mold.